Two years ago, Cash Ballard walked into a salon with should-length hair and walked out with a short crop, donating his long blonde locks to child cancer patients.
The youngest son of Colts General Manager Chris Ballard and his wife, Kristin, that was the last time Cash cut his hair.
But with a little prodding from his middle school football coach – this month, he decided to do it again.
“He bet me if I were to cut it in the next week or two, I’d get to go in at running back for a few plays,” he said.
In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – on September 11th, Cash walked into a salon in Carmel and had his long, blonde hair chopped off once again.
“It makes me super proud to know that he’s helping somebody and that he doesn’t even know he’s helping somebody,” said Kristin Ballard. “He’s not doing it for the publicity or anything like that – but if we can bring awareness to pediatric cancer, we’re all for it.”
Colts guard Quenton Nelson was Cash’s hair inspiration.
His real inspiration came from the heart – his friends, Cameron Kirk and Mason Garvey.
Captain Kirk and Mighty Mason became fast friends as they battled child cancer together.
During that time, the Colts and the Ballard family came into their lives and battled alongside them.
“We were invited to a Colts game and we were down on the field,” said Cameron’s mom, Carrie Kirk. “I was chatting with this lady who was dressed all in blue and white. I had no idea who she was. She asked me how I was doing and we just chatted about life. It took me a few minutes before I realized who I was talking to. Over the course of time, we’ve developed a friendship. It’s been wonderful.”
The families bonded and so did their kids.
During one particular outing, Kirk saw something special begin to develop between their sons.
“We were bowling and Cash and Cameron went to shoot baskets. Basketball was what he was doing when he first got sick. We hadn’t been able to get Cameron to shoot baskets,” she said. “And we saw something in him that we hadn’t seen in a long time – he was trying. Cash was playing with him like he would any other boy – but at the same time, he was being so kind and understanding that Cam couldn’t do things like other boys his age.”
Since then, the two have become buddies – talking, facetiming, and playing video games together.
It’s been a blessing for Cameron and his parents.
“I prayed for Cash. I didn’t know who it was going to be, but I needed someone to come into Cameron’s life who would really be his friend for who he was,” Kirk said. “He was an athlete before this happened and cancer took that away the last couple years because he physically couldn’t do it. The boys he grew up with didn’t know how to handle that.”
They even changed schools in search of a fresh start for their son.
“Cam came to us and said, ‘I want to go someplace where the kids don’t know me and they don’t know how I was before I got sick.’”
In June, Mason lost his battle with rhabdomyosarcoma. For a child with cancer, losing a friend to cancer is particularly traumatic.
“I know he was worried that he was next. We had lost three friends in a year’s timeframe. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be the last friend we lose,” Kirk said. “It’s tough knowing that I have to have that conversation with all of my kids. It’s a tough one to swallow, but it’s part of our life now.”
One of the only people Cam would talk to about Mason was Cash.
“Those boys have been there for each other and they’ve had conversations about their faith and things you don’t normally hear two 13-year-old boys talk about,” she said. “I think that’s why he and Cameron get along so well – because they are two old souls.”
Cancer doesn’t just affect the patient.
“It changes your whole family,” said Kirk. “We don’t want people to understand how we feel. Because if they understand, that means they’re going through it.”
“The thing I always tell them is, ‘I can’t understand what you’re going through, but I can be there for you,’” Ballard said. “I think about them constantly. I want to be there for them and help them. Their strength is beyond anything I could ever imagine.”
Cam celebrated the start of Child Cancer Awareness Month with his last chemotherapy treatment.
“It was pretty awesome that it turned out that way,” Kirk said. “That just happened to be when his chemo calendar ended.”
Now, Cam can work on being a kid again while Cash works on growing out his hair.
Two years from now, he should be ready to donate it again. And he hopes his football idol, Quenton Nelson, will join him.
“He told me he was going to grow his hair out like mine and then he didn’t. I’m kind of disappointed in him,” he joked.
For Cash, a new look was no big deal – but to Cam, it meant everything.
“It meant a lot to Cameron,” Kirk said. “And I know Cam’s not the only kid with cancer that’s going to mean a lot to.”